Hugh’s Story

Hugh McNair illustration


After helping Father, you have a good think. It’s not worth sitting in school when you could be working. The extra money will be a big help; maybe you’ll even be able to afford proper cuts of meat. Mother’s stews can be a little … gristly.

You get a job apprenticing with the Shoemaker. He’s a good sort: lets you get on with your work without much fuss. Besides tracing the odd shaped patterns, your favourite part is talking to customers.

“Say, boy, what’s the quickest way to the railway station?”

“By running.”

You’re not allowed to talk to customers often.

As time passes, you learn a few different things about shoemaking. You like hammering the soles into shape. You do not enjoy endless hours of stitching, scraping and burnishing the leather.

The shoemaker, however, falls ill and closes shop.

You know the Blacksmith next door is looking for an apprentice — you’ve always liked watching them work with forges.

Or maybe, you should see if your Uncle Robert can get you a job in his printing office. He married “up”, as your parents say, and his printing office is doing quite well. He’s a terrible bore, but it’d probably be safer.

Which do you choose?